Saturday 29 September 2012

British American Football

Back in the 1980s I regularly used to go off on a Sunday afternoon with my friend Roy to watch American Football. We used to follow the Taunton Wyverns who played at North Petherton: between Taunton and Bridgwater. The Wyverns were enthusiastic but not particularly talented. I remember they lost every game they played in one of the seasons (1987?) that we watched them. At least once we ventured up to Bristol to see a game but I don’t think it can have been to see Taunton play. This was the week after a player had died playing in a league match and it was quite difficult for all concerned. I’m nearly certain that the opposition was the Northants Storm – little did I know that some years later I would end up supporting them.
When I moved up to Daventry in 1990 I wasn’t able to find anybody who was keen on the game so I used to go on my own. This wasn’t as such fun as watching a game with a friend but it was a lot better than not going at all.
The Storm played at a number of different venues. I can remember at least four, Wellingborough, Northampton University, a rugby ground “somewhere in Northampton” and finally at Sixfields Stadium. Throughout this time the paying crowds steadily declined and towards the end would have been in the low double figures.  By 1996/97 it had all become a bit of a farce. Far too often either the other team didn’t turn up, or the referees didn’t turn up or the Red Cross volunteers didn’t turn up. Once I drove up to Leicester with my daughter Sally and the Northants Storm didn’t turn up. I think they had just folded – unofficially if not officially.
I then switched my allegiance to the Leicester Panthers for 1(?) season and also made a couple of trip down to see the Milton Keynes Pioneers. One time I very nearly ran out of petrol coming back from the MK Hockey Stadium and another time I spent ages driving around Fenny Stratford looking for the venue.
I look back on this era with much fondness.

Monday 24 September 2012

Spring Cleaning – Part 1

Every few years I “spring clean” the different hobby section of my life. I’ve never worked out what prompts this sudden urge for change and I suspect it is usually caused by an accumulation of small factors that sudden reach a tipping point rather than one major event. But one thing is certain - I can still remember the broad details of all the seismic shifts in my leisure time activities right back to the 1970s.
In those pre-internet and pre-email days all my hobbies were either conducted face-to-face or via the Royal Mail. It was a very different world back in the late 70s through to the mid-1980s. Younger, less experienced, members of hobby based societies were barely tolerated by the Old Guard: many of whom were either founder members of the group or had had been in place for decades.  The groups were largely run for the convenience of this small minority and with more modern eyes the standard of customer service and the value for money they offered were extremely low.

I played a great deal of postal chess and the National Correspondence Chess Club was an honourable exception to the widespread problems I mentioned earlier. My decision to stop playing was due entirely to the ever increasing tendency of some members to use home computers to do all the brain-work with only the most minimal human intervention. Some would call this cheating! Playing under these circumstances was pointless and demotivating and I left the hobby never to return.

During the 1980s I had gradually moved into the administration of philatelic societies and into philatelic exhibiting.  I went into both with my eyes wide open so it didn’t come as a big surprise when both ended badly. I came to the rescue of the Great Britain Overprints Society by acting as journal editor for the “Overprinter” but also by selling most of my extensive collection through the society. This gave a big boost to GBOS coffers but even that wasn’t enough to stop the knife being surgically applied when the men behind the throne wanted to re-establish control. I left British-based organised philately sometime prior to 1990 and with the sole exception of a few years as a casual member of a local Northampton based group never went back. For the last 20 years all my stamp hobby work has involved groups based in the USA.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Manland School, Harpenden 1959-1966: Part 4

There were four houses at Manland School. These were Balmoral (blue), Buckingham (green), Sandringham (red) and Windsor (yellow). I was in Buckingham but I’m ashamed to say that I had left the school before I realised that the houses were named after royal palaces rather than towns. Clearly my knowledge of geography was better than my knowledge of the monarchy.

The only time I can remember house allegiance being of any significance was on sports day. I was always in the relay race and at least once I reached the dizzy heights of being in the individual sprint as well. I don’t remember any of the results from the different events but knowing me I don’t expect I had any first places.

We played a lot of football at Manland. I was almost always told to play right back with just the occasional excitement of playing centre half. I can remember scoring a goal from nearly the half-way line. I’m right footed but the ball came from my left so I just swung my leg more in hope than expectation. By some miracle the ball screamed into the corner of the net and nobody was more surprised than me. I never made it into the school team although I did once play for an “Invitation 11” against the school team the year after I went up to St Albans School. The Bell twins, one, if not two, years older than me were in our team and the game was a massacre. In the end Kingham told the two of them that they were not allowed to go over the half way line in a vain attempt to keep the score down to single figures.  

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Manland School, Harpenden 1959-1966: Part 3

One thing that I can remember quite well are the various Manland School Christmas concerts. The Twelve Days of Christmas in which I was one of the “Drummers Drumming” and the next year when I was “Duban, the King’s Advisor” were my two most significant roles.
The strangest concert – by far – was when I was in Mr Kingham’s class. The tradition in most, if not all  primary schools, was that everybody in the class had a role in the concert.  Some roles would be fairly minor, perhaps just saying a few words or perhaps singing as part of a big group, but everyone got something to do.
Except when Mr Kingham was running the show!
He divided his class into two groups. Those in the choir (about 40) and the rest (about 10). I was in the smaller group and in the weeks leading up to the concert I noticed that I was spending a great deal of time watching the choir rehearse and virtually no time rehearsing myself. Nothing was done about costumes for our group either and with adult hindsight it is obvious that it was never Kingham's intention that our short play would get performed.

When the tickets were put on sale there was no mention of our play in the programme. I know that several parents complained – including mine – but nothing changed and although we were expected to attend we never went on stage.  Unsurprisingly my Mum didn’t attend the concert which was pretty much par for the course because she seldom bothered with school events.  Mum always seemed to have some “important” TWG event on which took priority over everything else.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Manland School, Harpenden 1959-1966: Part 2

I can remember the names of my eight teachers but the exact order in which I had them and the spelling of the surnames might be open to debate - Mrs Avis-Jones (reception), Miss Searby (class ?), Miss Wade (class ?), Mrs Postlethwaite (class ?), Mrs Thorburn (class ?),  Mrs Rumball (class 5), Mr Fuller (class 3) and Mr Kingham (class 1). Mr Walton was the Head Teacher.
Physical punishment of primary school pupils was allowed in the 1960s and it was quite widely practiced at Manland School especially by Mr Fuller and Mr Kingham. Mr Fuller was “firm but fair”and only fairly rarely used the slipper. Mr Kingham was a thoroughly unpleasant person who should never have been allowed to become a teacher. He used his hand, a slipper or a cane most days and mass punishments of large parts of the class were very much part of his repertoire. He was almost universally disliked by the pupils.
The strangest aspect of my time at the school was the two terms I spent being taught by Mrs Rumball. Her classroom wasn’t in the main school but was in an old building that backed onto the railway line about a mile away from the main site. It was generally accept by the parents that “Mrs Rumball didn’t like teaching boys” so it was no bad thing that I only had her for 2 terms. She lived on Dalkeith Road, not far from my parents. I used to walk back from school with my best friend Martin Gill, except on the day when he had a piano lesson, and I remember it seemed quite a long way especially going up Station Road hill. I don’t remember much about my time with Mrs Rumball. I know I always struggled in lessons when cutting out was involved and I remember getting into trouble for leaving over large gaps between my words when doing compositions.